2 August 2013
My dear friends in South Africa and around the world:
After spending the last few days relaxing in Paprika and Oregano’s garden, we decided to venture out and explore the area.
Paprika was planning to spend the afternoon with her two friends, Cinnamon and Caraway. (I’ve noticed that the people in Paprika’s life really do have very unusual names.) They were going to have lunch at their favorite café in Flemington, New Jersey. Paprika invited me to join them, but I was a bit nervous about meeting her friends. What if they didn’t like me?
I shouldn’t have worried. Once Paprika introduced me and told them about my cheerful, adventurous spirit, they were thrilled to have me join them for lunch. We had a lovely chat and they asked me questions about all of the amazing places I have been, like Cape Town (South Africa), Windhoek and Swakopmund (Namibia), and London (England), Llangollen (Wales), and Edinburgh (Scotland)! Oh, I always get so excited talking about all my adventures!
When we finished our lunch, Paprika surprised me with a mini history lesson. Right next to the café was a courthouse built in 1828. Paprika told me that it was where the “Trial of the Century” was held. I wasn’t sure what trial or what century she was talking about, so I asked her to explain it to me.
The world famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh, lived in a secluded part of Hunterdon County, New Jersey not far from this courthouse. On March 1, 1932, his 20 month old son was kidnapped from the second floor bedroom of their home. The only things left behind were a homemade ladder, a chisel and a ransom note demanding $50,000.
I was intrigued and wanted to know what happened, so I asked Paprika to continue.
As you can imagine the family was very upset. Police searched, but were unable to find the baby. Because Charles Lindbergh was so famous, reporters flocked to his home to cover the story. About a month after the baby disappeared, a man named Dr. John Condon contacted Mr. Lindbergh and claimed he could help him get in touch with the kidnapper. They met in a Bronx, New York cemetery on April 2, 1932. Charles Lindbergh gave the man the $50,000 ransom in numbered gold certificates, so that they could be traced when they were spent. Once the intermediary received the money, he gave Mr. Lindbergh a note from the kidnapper. The note indicated that the baby was in a boat off the coast of Massachusetts. Being a pilot, Lindbergh flew over that area, but was unable to find any sign of his son.
Paprika was worried that she was boring me with so many details, but this was turning out to be quite a fascinating mystery. I wanted to know more.
On May 12th, 1932, in an area just a few miles away from the Lindbergh home, a truck driver went into the woods to answer the call of nature. While there, he discovered the body of a small child and notified the police. They determined that it was indeed the body of Charles Lindbergh’s son. He had died from a skull fracture.
This story was heartbreaking, but I wanted to learn how this related to the Union Hotel and the Hunterdon County Courthouse that I saw today.
It took more than two years of investigating and tracking those numbered gold certificates, but eventually a man named Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested in New York. The police found $14,000 of the ransom money in his garage and the wood used to make the homemade ladder found outside the baby’s room came from wood in Hauptmann’s attic floor.
What came to be known as “The Trial of the Century” began on January 2, 1935 at the courthouse I saw today. Since Mr. Lindbergh was famous and this story had generated so much public interest, it became a media circus. I know we have a lot of that today, but back in 1935, that sort of thing was very unusual. The reporters and the jury all stayed directly across the street from the courthouse at the Union Hotel. The trial lasted 32 days and ended with a guilty verdict and death sentence for Mr. Hauptmann. There wasn’t a happy ending for anyone.
Since Paprika didn’t want to end our lunch date on a melancholy note, we all shared a slice of peach pie. Dessert always seems to taste sweeter after a sad story.
Paprika promised me that our next outing will not involve a court case, but it will involve flowers. I can’t wait!
Yours in flatness and love,